It is a known fact that customer aggravation hits higher levels in restaurants when food sits- unserved- in a heat lamp window, than at any other time in a restaurant.
On Sunday, while having breakfast in a local Santa Rosa diner I watched as the kitchen continued to populate a window with plates while the five waitresses on the floor paid little attention to the log jam that was apparent to everyone in view of the window.
I call this window roulette. And, the reasoning behind it is simple: Once a window is completely full of breakfast plates it becomes difficult to decipher which plate belongs to whom. And, if the plates are under a heat lamp, they are maintaining more heat than the food and therefore as the edges heat up it becomes dangerously tough to read the tickets underneath the plates.
However, if one waitress goes to the window, picks up a few plates and begins to deliver them, the log jam is suddenly freed. In many instances, a customer can watch as the waiteresses keep an eye on the window while hoping others will pick up their food first.
This doesn’t happen frequently and in most busy restaurants an expeditor or a manager will help with the flow of food from the window. But in this instance nobody was paying attention as the window backed up to Long Island Expressway proportion.
As I watched my eggs sit in a window for at least seven minutes, I noticed other customers becoming as annoyed as I was as our food became reheated by a red heat lamp. Finally I asked my waitress what the problem was an she told me she was busy, and proceeded to eventually bring my breakfast. Kranston’s eggs were room temperature. Mine were cold. I don’t normally complain in restaurants. However, on this occasion I asked to see the manager as I frequent the diner regularly.
To my surprise the owner came out. After a brief greeting I mentioned his window was traffic jamming. He claimed he was in his office working on the computer. He said that he had been in the business for 25 years and that if he had to be out in front than he had the wrong people working.
And, he was right.
The problem wasn’t that he had the wrong people working, the problem was he didn’t have a manager or expeditor on the floor.
Restaurants are not democracies. Unfortunately, there always needs to be a person of authority on the floor – in sight of the staff – who has a watchful eye – just like the customer’s.
The key is to see it first, before the customer does. If you can do that, or train someone to do that, you’ll never have the wrong people working – for long.